Your License Application Can Depend on Politics. That's Right.
Under the due process and equal protection clauses, you should be able to apply for a liquor license without worrying about your race or national origin. Unfortunately, you may discover the ugly truth that liquor licenses are intensely political and the local municipalities responsible for issuing them have little or no grasp of the constitutional issues involved, and frankly don't care. Many applications can be subject to arbitrary increased scrutiny and odious requirements just because you are not white. Read on.
A True Story: A group of wealthy Mexican investors bought a restaurant and applied for a liquor license transfer. The municipality in question required them to appear in front of the city council to beg for it, although they had already filed the standard application. They had no criminal background or record of any kind. They were upstanding and well to do. Their only problem was weakness with English. They could speak, but with poor grammar and heavy accents. The elected city officials took turns expressing doubt that they could run a restaurant, disparaged their English skills and their ability to manage American staff, mocked their business plan, hinted broadly that Mexicans simply couldn't be trusted to run a business in America, and finally agreed to consider their license application only if the Mexicans agreed to put $75,000 into new parking lots, shrubbery and trees! Counsel for the Mexicans objected that this was outrageous, an extortion of urban renewal in exchange for a liquor license, and totally beyond the criteria for granting liquor licenses. The city didn't care. They tabled the application for a month. In the meantime, the Mexicans' lease contingency for liquor licenses expired. Instead of bail out on the lease, they chose to trust the City Council and stick with the 5 year lease, even though a license denial would render their restaurant worthless and leave them on the hook for a five year leasehold. The following month, the City Council refused to abide by the law and demanded the grounds improvements or no license. Our clients asked how much an appeal might cost, and how long. Soon they determined that the $75,000 of extorted urban renewal sounded cheaper. They gave in, spent the money, and were given the liquor license. This shows how it sometimes works in the real world. If you are applying for a liquor license, call us to discuss the details BEFORE this type of thing happens to you. And always be sure to get a very long liquor license contingency period in your lease, or you can quickly be facing a business bankruptcy or worse.